Bill Russell: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Bill Russell

Getty Bill Russell

Bill Russell will be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2019 ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, according to his Twitter page.

Russell announced that he would be receiving the award in a tweet. The ESPY Awards (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards) will take place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California on Wednesday, July 10 at 7 p.m. Central time. This year will mark the 27th annual Arthur Ashe Award and the 85-year-old retired NBA star is the perfect fit for such an honor.

“Just found out I will be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award,” he wrote. “Arthur was a man of great courage. Tune in July 10, this is a special honor!”

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Russell Entered the NBA in 1956

Success is a result of consistent practice of winning skills and actions,” Russel said in a 2018 Instagram post. “There is nothing miraculous about the process. There is no luck involved.”

According to his NBA Legends profile, Russell was the second overall pick in the 1956 NBA draft. He was originally picked up by the St. Louis Hawks, however, the Celtics wanted him and made a trade.

Russell reportedly started for the Celtics in December after winning the gold medal in Melbourne, Australia with the 1956 U.S. Olympic basketball team in November. He went on to become a standout player for the Celtics.

According to the Celtics, Russell played all 13 seasons with the team. He was a five-time NBA MVP and an eleven-time NBA champion. Russell’s number 6 was retired by Celtics.

Bill Russell Documentary The Player, The Coachbiography of famous people2015-11-19T16:35:21.000Z

“Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics’ dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts,” his profile reads.


2. Russell Fought for Civil Rights & Battled Discrimination

“On the final day of #BlackHistoryMonth I wanted to make sure I show my support to Colin Kaepernick #ImWithKap #BHM Know Your Rights Camp Nike #TrueTo7” Russell wrote on Facebook in February 2019.

Russell’s contributions to society have not gone unnoticed. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Russell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor an American civilian can receive. In 2013, the city of Boston unveiled an interactive statue for the legacy of Russell in City Hall Plaza.

“Russell is revered as one of the greatest civil rights advocates American sports, and the country as a whole, has ever seen,” the Celtics wrote. “Throughout his playing days and all the way up to the present day, Russell has continually pushed for equality and has never shied away from speaking his thoughts. And when he speaks, everyone listens.”


3. Bill is Married to Jeannine Russell

Bill said that he and Jeannine “go together like Bacon & Eggs” in a 2018 Halloween post on Instagram. He apparently loves bacon too. Jeannine frequently appears on Bill’s Instagram, usually appearing in photos with him in the stands watching basketball.

In December 2018, the couple watched the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Phoenix Suns at the Staples Center. Bill said he had a wonderful time with his wife. The two smiled big for the camera, as Bill sported a Celtics cap, of course.

In February 2019, Jeannine baked Bill a cake for his 85th birthday. “Thanks to my wife for all the work she put into my cake, candles, not so much ? Glad we had the ? extinguisher on hand,” Bill joked. He said every day he wakes up above ground is a good day.

In June, the two traveled to San Fransisco for game six of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors. “Inspired by all the wonder #pride around San Francisco today. Love Is Love ❤️” Bill wrote during pride month.

It seems that the two were flown first-class to the ESPY Awards on July 8, 2019. Bill flashed a smile for the camera while Jeannine watched Black Panther.


4. Bill Has Three Children From His First Marriage

Russell initially married his college sweetheart Rose Swisher in 1956. The two had three children together, Karen, William Jr., and Jacob Russell. They divorced in 1973.

Karen wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine in June 1987. The piece was titled “Growing Up With Privilege and Prejudice.” She reflected on her life after receiving her Doctor of Law degree from Harvard University, specifically talking about inequality and racism.

“Every time the Celtics went out on the road, vandals would come and tip over our garbage cans,” Karen wrote. “My father went to the police station to complain. The police told him that raccoons were responsible, so he asked where he could apply for a gun permit. The raccoons never came back.”

According to an LA Times piece from 1987, Jacob graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and William Jr. worked in restaurant management. Russell told the outlet that he was proud of all of his children and that he tried to make sure they knew how “to be able to deal within the system.”

Russell had another two wives before marrying Jeannine. In 1977, Russell married Didi Anstett. Anstett was Miss USA of 1968. They divorced in 1980. In 1996, Russell married Marilyn Nault. Their marriage lasted until her passing in January 2009.


5. Russell Co-Founded MENTOR

Russell’s Twitter bio reads, “Civil rights activist, 11x NBA Champ, Husband, Friend, & Co-Founder @MENTORnational.”

According to its website, MENTOR wants every young person to have the supportive relationships they need to grow and develop into thriving, productive and engaged adults. While Russell is not currently working for the organization, he is on the Board of Directors Emeritus list.

“MENTOR’s mission is to fuel the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people and to close the mentoring gap for the one in three young people growing up without this critical support,” the organization says.